15 November 2016
I went along to meet the Plumpton College Rural Pathways group at Baulcombes Barn last week. It was a beautiful morning, Owena and Ivan were moving Penny the sow into a field waiting for the arrival of Happy the boar, since her piglets have now been weaned.
Claudette and Tash brought the nine Rural Pathways students along in a minibus. Everyone was wearing very smart overalls.
This is Owena's report of the session:
"I was with the group who took care of the hens; Kira, Bethany, Savanah, Clianne, Jake and Mikey. They seemed unsure about how to open the electric fence, I think this is because normally *Gabriel has done it."
*Gabriel, we're very pleased to report, enjoyed his time with us at Baulcombes so much, he's gone on to start the Plumpton agricultural course!
"On the way out Jake and Mikey were able to do the electric fence gate and test it. Bethany and Savannah knew about collecting eggs and putting them in the trays, they needed reminding how to open the door, but were able to close it later.
We found an egg which hadn't hardened, which looks very odd. We removed it because we do not want the chickens to start eating eggs.
Clianne, Jake and Mikey cleaned the hen house. Mikey was able to prepare the paper lining with help from Tash; Jake and Clianne removed the paper and muck from the house, and removed the muck from the paper and lit the fire to burn the paper.
Mikey helped me to push the hen house floor back. He wanted to learn how to pick up a hen. I showed him, but was uncertain to catch one himself, he held it from me. Mikey wanted to catch a hen on his own, he was keen, but kept avoiding making the final catch. Eventually he did it! He caught a hen and held it.
The hens are easier to catch when you approach slowly and gently crouch down, as they will crouch down thinking that you are a rooster and they will stay still for a short moment and it is then that you can capture the hen. You need to hold the wings firmly to avoid flapping and damage to the wings.
We observed the hens for a while before leaving them to peck and scratch.
We had the boar Happy brought to visit the sow, Penny. Penny has been weaned from her piglets and she will come in season in the next three days. We watched Happy and Penny reacquainting themselves with each other.
One group cleaned the horse muck from the field, this is to stop the grass becoming too sour from the breakdown of the manure. We collect it up every day and let it rot down in a muck heap, which is emptied every six months when it is well-rotted.
In the meantime, another group had been feeding the weaners. They measured out the feed and gave it to the pigs, they observed if all the pigs were eating.
Finally, we all walked to check sheep. The boy lambs were well. The ewes have the tups [ie males who have not been castrated] in and the young people were told that the orange mark on the back of the ewes mean that they have been 'served' by the tup [ie in order to get pregnant]. We discussed the cycle of the ewes, which is three days with 17 days between each cycle."